Graboff v. Colleran Firm
United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
744 F.3d 128 (2014)
Dr. Steven Graboff (plaintiff) and Dr. Menachem Meller were both members of the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (collectively, the AAOS) (defendants), professional organizations with procedures for adjudicating grievances between members. Meller filed a grievance against Graboff because Graboff wrote a report in a malpractice case in which he claimed that Meller had committed malpractice. Graboff was suspended from the AAOS, and the AAOS published an article about the grievance proceeding. Graboff sued the AAOS, asserting claims for defamation and for false-light invasion of privacy. Instead of asking the jury for a general verdict on Graboff’s claims, the trial court submitted interrogatories to the jury that asked three specific questions concerning the AAOS’s liability. In response to the interrogatories, the jury found that the AAOS article (1) did not make false statements about Graboff, (2) did portray Graboff in a false light, and (3) was published with knowledge of or reckless disregard for its portrayal of Graboff in a false light. The jury awarded Graboff a lump sum of $196,000 in damages without differentiating between the defamation claim and the false-light claim. The trial court treated the jury’s interrogatory answers as a verdict that the AAOS was not liable for defamation but was liable for false-light invasion of privacy. The AAOS appealed, arguing that the trial court’s findings were inconsistent. Specifically, the AAOS argued that because it had not made false statements about Graboff, it could not have made statements portraying him in a false light.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Greenberg, J.)
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